The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 300 million people suffer from depression and 260 million are living with anxiety disorders worldwide, many of these people live with both. As It is World Mental Health Day today , I wanted to share some simple dietary musts to optimise your mental health.
- AVOID SUGAR AND REFINED CARBOHYDRATES
A diet high in refined sugar and processed foods can cause mood swings, low energy and inflammation as well as low immunity and poor digestion. All of these issues can have a negative impact on mental health.
Refined sugar and refined carbohydrates do not supply us with nutrients and will spike our blood sugar levels, furthermore they will use up the mood-enhancing B vitamins, which are needed to convert the sugar into energy.
- EAT A PORTION OF LEAN PROTEIN WITH EVERY MEAL.
This can be animal protein (fish, eggs, poultry and meat) or plant protein (nuts, seeds, quinoa, beans and lentils). A tablespoon of mixed seeds in your porridge is an example of how you could incorporate some protein into your breakfast
When we eat protein it is broken down into amino acids. These amino acids are used to make the brain's chemical messages, essential for the nervous system to work effectively. The neurotransmitter serotonin ( known as the 'happy hormone') for example cannot be produced by the body without the amino acid tryptophan.
- EAT YOUR GREENS!
Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, rocket, kale, chard, watercress and broccoli are high in folate. Deficiencies in this vitamin as with other B vitamins are associated with higher rates of depression, insomnia and fatigue.
- EAT PLENTY OF FOODS CONTAINING OMEGA- 3 FATTY ACIDS
We must obtain omega 3 fatty acids from our diet as our body cannot produce it by itself. The best sources of omega 3 are oily fish e.g. salmon sardines, anchovy’s mackerel and herring. Omega 3 fatty acids are also present in flax (linseed) and chia seeds. The seeds should be ground to benefit from their omega 3 content.
Omega 3 fatty acids from seeds and nuts need to be converted by the body to the form that the brain can use (DHA and EPA). Some people lack the specific enzymes to be able to make this conversion effectively. If you do not regularly consume oily fish, consider supplementing with a good quality Omega 3 fish oil supplement which has been tested for its purity. Vegan/vegetarian omega 3 supplements containing DHA and EPA, can also be obtained which are derived from algae.